212th Engineering and Installation Squadron helps upgrade comms at Joint Base Langley-Eustis

  • Published
  • By Mr. Timothy Sandland
  • 102nd Intelligence Wing

The communications squadron at Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE) had a challenge. The unit had identified hundreds of network switches on the base’s network that needed replacement. The funding for the replacement equipment was there, but the manpower to do the work was another story.

During this past May, the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s (ANG) 212th Engineering and Installation Squadron (EIS) – based at Otis Air National Guard Base – answered the call, having the personnel and expertise to aid base comm with this monumental task.

The 212th EIS’ parent unit, the 253rd Cyberspace Engineering and Installation Group (CEIG), is one of two cyber engineering and installation (E&I) groups in the ANG that split responsibility for oversight of 15 E&I squadrons.

In contrast, the active-duty component has but one E&I group and one squadron. In terms of the Total Force, the ANG clearly has the bulk of forces and resources to execute the E&I mission.

“This was a great example of how the Total Force can work together to support the mission,” said 1st Lt. Zackery Benton, 212th EIS team lead. “The 212th, with our trained and experienced personnel, were able to step in and provide the necessary support.”

Yet another major strength of the ANG’s E&I mission is that the skilled technicians who fulfill these roles are most often part-time Guardsmen. In their civilian lives, these professionals typically work on the very same equipment and use the same training in their civilian occupations. They bring their cutting-edge capabilities and skills for use while in uniform.

One of the ancillary benefits provided to the 212th EIS in this arrangement was training.

The ANG uses training as the basis for everything it does. The network upgrade was a clear opportunity for qualifications to be validated and training to be documented – all in a real-world situation which is far more useful than a simulated training environment.

“The network upgrade was a valuable opportunity for our technicians to gain training and experience,” said Benton. “The network component alone allowed the Airmen to get the necessary repetitions to maintain and sharpen their skills.”

The upgrade saw the successful “sign-off” of 21 Airmen on 177 Career Field Education and Training Plan (CFETP) tasks. An important milestone, as the E&I community just recently converted and consolidated their career field. Airmen who were previously only trained in one specialty now needed to learn other skills to maintain their qualifications.

“By signing off these tasks, these Airmen are now two years ahead of the projected time to complete these tasks,” said Benton.

In all, the team racked 77 Cisco switches, preparing them for future cutover and upgraded 27 switches from HP to Cisco technology. They terminated over 72 fiber runs, re-terminated, tested 196 strands of copper cable, and ran a new fiber optic cable that enabled a critical system to be put into use. The work they did also saw an A-Staff agency move back into a previously under utilized building.

If that wasn’t enough, on the way out the door the team conducted a survey for future fiberoptic installation projects.

“We were able to expand the scope of the project and showcase the full capability of E&I,” said Benton. “This included work in on-the-spot engineering, Radio Frequency Preventative Maintenance Inspection, and Fiberoptic and CAT6 pulls and terminations.”

In the end, the 212th EIS left JBLE in a much more manageable state, while also exercising their skills and documenting their training. Between the training and the actual real work that was accomplished, the team from Otis ANGB made quite an impact.

Total force integration has been proven effective and a new relationship within the service component has been forged.

“This has been a great partnership and speaks to how the Total Force can have an amplifying effect on getting after these types of projects,” said Col. Stephen Dillon, 253rd CEIG commander. “This is an area we are strongly looking to grow our capabilities in and opportunities for E&I. We have a lot to offer, so building and maintaining that foundational trust is key to success.”

As units like the 212th EIS continue to build on excellent intraservice partnerships; the Air Force, National Guard, and the Air Force Reserve –our Total Force –play a crucial role in accomplishing the Air Force mission.